Barcelona have dismissed Pere Gratacos from one of his roles with the club after comments he made about Lionel Messi following Friday’s Copa del Rey draw in Madrid.
Gratacos, until now Barca’s director of institutional relations with the Spanish Federation (RFEF), was attending the draw as the club’s representative when he was asked about Messi’s importance to the side and the state of play regarding his contract renewal.
He responded by saying he couldn’t comment on the contract situation, but added: “Leo is one of the most important people in the team, but it’s not just about him. He would not be as good without [Andres] Iniesta, Neymar and company, but Messi is the best.”
Barca say the reason for firing Gratacos — which was taken by director of professional sports Albert Soler — was because he expressed an opinion which was not in line with the club’s. He will, however, continue to work on the La Masia 360 project.
A statement read: “Pere Gratacos has been dismissed from his role as director of institutional relations for having publicly expressed a personal opinion that does not coincide with that of the club after the draw for the quarterfinal of the Copa del Rey.
“The decision was made by Albert Soler, who will take on these responsibilities directly from now on. Pere Gratacos will continue to be linked to Barcelona by working on the La Masia 360 project which is already underway.”
Gratacos came through Barcelona’s youth system and made over 100 appearances for the B team before spending the majority of his playing career at Catalan side Figueres.
The 58-year-old returned to the club as coach of the B team in 2003 and spent two years working with Messi, who he recommended to then first-team manager Frank Rijkaard. The Dutch coach responded by calling up a teenage Messi for a friendly against Porto, when he made his first appearance for the club.
Gratacos’ remark on Friday came after CEO Oscar Grau said “common sense” must be applied when negotiating Messi’s new deal earlier this week. Those comments were viewed by some as an attempt to force the Argentine to reduce his wage demands.
Despite everything, Barca remain confident that they will tie Messi down to a new deal in the coming months, with president Josep Maria Bartomeu saying before Christmas they’re prepared to make him the world’s best-paid player